Pair killed at Ballymurphy ‘likely to have been hit by UK military ammunition’

Two men who died after a shooting incident in west Belfast in 1971 were likely to have been struck by UK military ammunition, an inquest has heard.

Joseph Corr, 43, and John Laverty, 20, were shot on Whiterock Road on August 11 1971.

The incident came as members of the Parachute Regiment were advancing down the road towards Ballymurphy with the aim of dismantling barricades.

The barriers had been erected amid several days of chaos across Northern Ireland after the introduction by the Stormont administration of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Ballymurphy
Joseph Corr, Danny Teggart, Eddie Doherty, Father Hugh Mullan, Frank Quinn, Joan Connolly, John McKerr, Noel Philips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy (Ballymurphy Massacre Committee/PA)

Mr Corr and Mr Laverty were among 10 people, including a priest, who were killed in a series of shootings in the Ballymurphy area between August 9 and 11.

Fresh inquests are taking place into their deaths at Belfast Coroner’s Court.

On Tuesday the inquest heard details of post-mortem reports for both men.

Mr Corr was struck by one bullet which entered his abdomen and chest. He died in hospital 13 days later.

“The wounds were of a type caused by a bullet of high velocity,” the report said.

Ballymurphy inquest
Joseph Corr (Family handout/PA)

Mr Laverty was struck by two bullets in his right flank and right thigh, likely to have been fired from a high-velocity rifle, and died shortly afterwards.

The inquest heard that a joint ballistics report compiled by expert witnesses Paul Olden, Anne Kiernan, and Mark Mastaglio found it likely that both men had been bent over, crouching or kneeling when they were struck.

Giving evidence to the inquest, Mr Olden said a bullet recovered from Mr Laverty’s body was identified as being of the type “consistent with originating with UK military ammunition”.

Ballymurphy inquest
John Laverty (Family handout/PA)

He said the markings on the bullet were consistent with being from a self-loading rifle. Soldiers at the time were armed with SLRs.

Responding to questions, Mr Olden said that although other rifles could fire such bullets, there was no evidence they were in use in Northern Ireland at that time.

The inquest previously heard that no weapons were found with the victims, and there was no evidence they had been firing any.

The families of the two men have strongly and consistently denied they were gunmen.

The inquest, which has been sitting for almost 70 days, is expected to finish hearing evidence in the coming weeks.

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